Nutritional requirements of Children
General Nutrition • • 1 minute to read • By Zainab Cutlerywala, INFS Faculty
Author: Zainab Cutlerywala
As children grow their nutritional needs grow with them. They need the same kind of food which adults need with more vitamins and minerals. A child's nutritional needs also depend on the day-to-day activities they are involved in.
The magic portion is adding variety and color to their food which will help in the long run to maintain their nutritional needs.
When children go to school they not only learn about academics but also how to socialize with different people. When they meet friends and eat together they get influenced by what everyone is eating and would want to adopt those habits.
In such cases, it becomes really difficult for parents to monitor the nutritional needs of their children. Most of the schools send a menu to parents to prepare food accordingly, but once again it's not possible to monitor every child.
Caloric requirement and energy expenditure:
Children come in all sizes and so do their energy requirements. Therefore we do not give specific numbers when we talk about the caloric needs of children. Children are no different from adults, they also utilize a major portion of their energy for basal metabolic activities i.e. breathing, circulation, respiration, etc. the remaining energy is taken up by the day-to-day activities they indulge themselves in.
Some children tend to be more active than others, they prefer running the entire day. Such childrens’ caloric needs would be more than that of a child who likes to sit in one place and play.
Children from the ages 5-9 years have similar nutritional needs irrespective of gender. Once the child hits puberty gender differences set in and so does the change in nutritional needs.
Calorie intake guidelines by NIN for children.
|Age||Weight||Calories (Kcal/ kg/day)|
|4-6 years||18 kgs||1350|
|7-9 years||25.1 kgs||1690|
|10- 12 yearsGirls||35 kgs||2010|
|10- 12 yearsBoys||34.3 kgs||2190|
According to the NHS eat well guide a four-year-old boy should consume 1,386 calories per day, whereas a four-year-old female should take 1,291 calories per day. This gradually increases until, by the age of ten, boys should consume 2,032 calories per day and girls 1,936 calories per day.
The below table is the age-wise caloric intake for children as per NHS
|Age||Male Calories||Female Calories|
|11 years and above||2500||2000|
The macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each of them is required by the body. Let us understand each of them in detail:
Proteins play a vital role in various functions of the body which include repair of tissues, growth, and recovery. Proteins are made up of amino acids. The body can prepare a few of these amino acids whereas few need to be taken through dietary sources. A child needs an optimal amount of protein for proper growth and development.
Children who do not get enough protein may end up having problems like delayed or slow growth, problems in concentration, feeling fatigued, decreased immune response, delayed wound healing bone, and joint pains. But the protein requirements can be easily maintained by making small dietary changes.
Protein intake guidelines by NIN for children.
|4-6 years||18 kgs||20.1|
|7-9 years||25.1 kgs||29.5|
|10- 12 yearsGirls||35 kgs||40.4|
|10- 12 yearsBoys||34.3 kgs||39.9|
Carbohydrates form a major part of the diet in most Indian households. The primary job of carbohydrates is to provide energy to the body for various functions and activities that children indulge themselves in.
Carbohydrates play an important role in providing energy to the brain.
Around 100 mg/min of glucose is needed by the brain in adulthood and approximately twice as much is needed in children. The RDA for carbohydrates is not clearly defined but approximately 35-50% of the caloric needs of children are completed by carbohydrates.
Fats are strongly criticized and this sometimes hides the fact that dietary fats play an important role in brain development and neurological functions in early childhood. They supply the essential fatty acids needed by the body which the body can't produce on its own.
Fats are also responsible for the transport and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. They form the components of the cell membrane. Therefore it is necessary to give appropriate amounts of fats too in the diet of school-going children. This could be anywhere from 30-35% of total calories.
Micronutrients are nothing but your vitamins and minerals; these are required in minute quantities by the body and are therefore called micronutrients. Even though needed in small quantities, they have important functions to perform in the body like immune functions, blood clotting, energy production, bone development, growth, etc. A deficiency of vitamins and minerals can lead to specific disorders in the body.
NIN Recommendations for micronutrients:
|4-6 years||18 kgs||600||13||7||70|
|7-9 years||25.1 kgs||600||16||8||100|
|10-12 yearsGirls||35 kgs||800||27||9||160|
|10-12 yearsBoys||34.3 kgs||800||21||9||120|
Standards Agency, F. (n.d.). The Eatwell Guide.
Stephen, A., Alles, M., de Graaf, C., Fleith, M., Hadjilucas, E., Isaacs, E., Maffeis, C., Zeinstra, G., Matthys, C., & Gil, A. (2012). The role and requirements of digestible dietary carbohydrates in infants and toddlers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66 (7), 765. https://doi.org/10.1038/EJCN.2012.27
DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR INDIANS-A Manual. (n.d.).
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